Ahl al-Bayt (A.S.), Allah’s Viceregents
Allama Husayn Ansariyan
Allah’s attributes are not merely verbal; rather; they are objective and having external realization. The first attributes that manifested themselves from the invisible God at His will are four according to a narration, and seven according to another, which can somehow refer to the same name. The first attributes are the Ever-living, the All-knowing, the All-Powerful, and the Speaker.
Each of these attributes has a domain and property for itself and there is a longing in them for manifestation. Since ‘Allah’ is comprehensive of all attributes, it generally holds other Attributes and does not allow an Attribute to emerge alone.
The Universe’s Need for Allah’s Vicegerent
Each part of the universe that was materialized with Allah’s Most Excellent Names is governed by that Attribute. It is so necessary beyond doubt that someone comes into existence to be a full manifestation of Allah’s Chief Name and create a balance among the concrete Names of Allah so that they will not interfere with each other.
In other words, the universe is in need of a perfect man who is the manifestation of all Most Excellent Names as well as the Chief Name so as to be able to administer all the affairs as Allah’s vicegerent with His permission. Even angels who are abstract beings and each of them is assigned with a special duty -
And there is none of us but has an assigned place (37:164) -
are in need of Allah’s vicegerent (khalifat allah) so as to control them in their affairs and to teach them what is necessary.
To sum it up, based on Quranic verses and narrations, the universe is in need of khalifat allah even if no human beings had been created. The first human being of our kind, Adam, was also in need of khalifat allah so that his affairs would be administered justly. Hence he himself was khalifat allah in order for that position to be a link between him and Allah.
Based on this imperative need, Allah chose a vicegerent for Himself and made him rule over universe: I am going to place in the earth a khalifah - Vicegerent- (2:30)
This khalifah would rule the highest stages of the universe. Although the earth is the lowliest of the low, potentially this position is the highest in terms of ranks on the earth. This most passive element is the only element, which can collect within itself all Attributes of Allah’s and become the most active element of universe thanks to its mere passiveness.
And He taught Adam all the names (2:31)
Features of Allah’s Vicegerent
Since a khalifah knows all the Names, he can be a teacher for all creatures. Since Allah has made khalifah teacher of angels, He has made him teacher of all other creatures too.
And He taught Adam all the names and then presented them to the angels; then He said: Tell me the names of those if you are right. They said: glory be to thee! We have no knowledge but that which thou has taught us; surely thou art the knowing, the wise. He said: O Adam! Inform them of their names. Then when, he had informed them of their names, He said: Did I say to you that I surely know what is ghaib (unseen) in the heavens and the earth and (that) I Know what you manifest and what you hide. (2:31-33)
A khalifah due to his knowledge and understanding of Allah's Most Excellent Names objectively and subjectively lies at the core of the universe. He must lie in the center of it to be able to teach to the angels, administer them in relation to their affairs and urge them to do special missions. In other words, a khalifah must be perfect in terms of knowledge and capacity and superior in terms of infallibility and justice so as to be able to distinguish between the objective beautiful Names of Allah and other creatures.
A khalifah is a person who has gone through the lowest stages of existence up to its highest ones.
A khalifah is a person in whom the knowledge of the Book and the Preserved Tablet (al-Lawh al-Mahfudh) has been internalized. He is one who is benevolent and has acquired such virtues as generosity, contentment, chastity and courage, and has become the manifestation of Allah's Most Excellent Names.
A khalifah is one who emerges at any time with one of Allah's Names, which is proper to that time, making that Name rule. It is at this station that he is absorbed in Allah and takes the course toward Him. After receiving the baptism of Allah, he will reach a position where he can do extraordinary works with the permission of Allah. Then his heart becomes Allah's Throne and finds Allah sitting on it: The All-Compassionate sat himself upon the throne. (20:5)
Merits of Allah’s Vicegerent In a sacred Hadith (Words of Almighty Allah), we read: I am not contained in heaven or the earth; but I am contained in the heart of my believing servant.107
It is a believer’s heart that can undertake the vicegerency of Allah’s Most Excellent Names by which Allah rules over the universe. Referring to the creation of the Holy Prophet, another sacred Hadith reads: Were it not for your sake, I would not have created the universe.108
Ahl al-Bayt(A.S.), Allah’s Most Perfect Vicegerents
Allah's true vicegerent is the Holy Prophet, for he is the first being to have been created, the most perfect manifestation of Allah's Attributes and a collection of truth and Allah's light: The first thing Allah created was my light.109
Narrations say that the light of the Holy Prophet was created many thousand years before the creation of the universe. About the light of Imam Ali (a.s), it has been said that he was together with the Holy Prophet in the invisible World. One of these lights became Prophet and the other became Imam. In this connection, the Holy Prophet says: Ali and I were created from the same light.110
Imam Ali (a.s.) who is Allah’s intimate friend is the heart of Allah’s Messenger as he shares with him everything except Prophethood. The Holy Prophet (S) says: Adam and others are under my banner on the Judgment Day. When Allah judges among His servants, Amir al-Mu'minin (i.e. Imam Ali) will hold the banner.111
Therefore; if the mission of all the Prophets led to the mission of the Holy Prophet, the Imamate of all prophets is based on the Imamate of Imam Ali (a.s.) who was inwardly present with all prophets and outwardly with the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.). Hence, the Imamate of Allah's Messenger is united with the Imamate of Ali.
True vicegerents; Means of Grace
Any station that is attained by a person must be through the Ahl al- Bayt. In this relation, the Holy Quran says: And seek means of nearness to Him. (5:35)
We are advised to "hold fast to Allah's cord." Ahl al-Bayt have been reported as saying: We are the firm cord of Allah.3
It is a requirement to follow the Imamate of Ali (a.s.) and the Holy Imams (a.s.). in order to receive the Divine Grace - whether it is knowledge or daily food. The Holy Prophet says: I am the city of knowledge and Ali is its gate. Whoever wishes to enter the city and seek its wisdom must first come to the gate.
Aban ibn Taghlib, a trustworthy narrator, says: I asked Imam al-Sadiq (a.s.), “What for has Allah set the Shiites free from Hellfire?" The Imam answered, “On account of their acceptance of Ali's Imamate.”112
Imam al-Ridha (a.s) is reported as saying in the famous narration of Salsalat al-Dhahab (Golden Chain), (Almighty Allah says) There is no god but Allah is my fortress. Whoever enters it will be safe from punishment.
Imam al-Ridha (a.s) adds, Accepting my Imamate is the requirement for entering the fortress.113
Therefore, prophethood of Allah’s Messenger and Imamate of Imam Ali (a.s.) and the Infallible Imams are the indisputable requirements for monotheism. It is for this reason that it has been said that task of one is the task of the other two.
Allah has professed His unity, Prophethood and Imamate: Allah bears witness that there is no god but He… (3:18)
…and Allah knows that you are most surely His Apostle … (63:1)
Only Allah is your Wali and His Apostle and those who believe, those who keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate while they bow. (5:55)
Ahl al-Bayt are truly a means of Divine Grace and if it were it not for their sake, no one would be blessed with that Grace. Since they are near to Allah and are at the station of certainty, whoever wishes to reach this station must resort to them: Allah started with you and will end with you and to you is the return of the people.114
The light of Ahl al-Bayt is such that even the angels who are abstract cannot bear their light, so, they fall in prostration when they seeing their light, thinking of it as Allah's Light. It has been narrated that when Allah’s Messenger, accompanied by (Archangel) Gabriel at the Ascension Night reached the third heaven, the angels ran away first and then started falling in prostration, saying: Glory and Holiness be to our Lord; Lord of angels and the Spirit. How close this light to the light of our Lord is.115
At any rate, Allah’s vicegerency among people is a features of the Ahl al-Bayt. According to a narration, Imam al-Ridha (a.s.) has been reported to say: The Imams are Allah's vicegerents on the earth.116
In al-Ziyarah al-Jamiah al-Kabirah, Imam al-Hadi (a.s) says: He strengthened you with His omnipotence, equipped you with His guidance, distinguished you with His clear Proofs, glorified you with His Light, confirmed you with His Holy spirit, and chose you to represent Him on His earth.
Ali ibn Hassan says: Imam al-Ridha (a.s.) was asked about the Ziyarah of Imam al-Kadhim (a.s). He answered: Perform prayer near mosques and say, “Peace be upon the favorites of Allah and the chosen ones. Peace be upon the trustees of Allah and the beloved ones. Peace be upon the supporters of Allah and His representatives.”117
About khalifah, Amir al-Muminin (a.s.) says: On the Judgment Day, Allah’s vicegerent will be called, “Where is Allah’s representative on His earth.”118
In Dua Arafah, Imam Zayn al-Abidin (a.s.) describes the Ahl al-Bayt as Allah’s representatives on the earth: …and Your vicegerents on Your lands.119
107. Awali al-La'ali: 7/4, H. 7
108. Ta’wil al-Ayat al-Zahirah: 430
109. Awali al-La'ali: 99/4, T 140
110. Al-Amali by Shaykh al-Saduq: 236
111. al-Manaqib: 23/2
112. Safinat al-Bihar: 553/1.
113. Uyun Akhbar al-Ridha: 135/2, H. 4
114. Uyun Akhbar al-Ridha: 272/2, H. 1
115. Ilal al-Shara’i: 312/2, Ch. 1, H. 1
116. Al-Kafi: 193/1, H. 1
117. Al-Amali by Shaykh al-Tusi: 63, H. 92
118. Uyun Akhbar al-Ridha: 271/2
119. Al-Sahifah al-Sajjadiyyah, Prayer: 47.